Space Shuttle will install construction aid and carry cargo and replacement crew

The Space Shuttle Endeavour has been cleared for launch on mission STS 111 from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The flight will be a logistics, construction and crew exchange mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on 30 May.

During three spacewalks, the Canadian Mobile Base System will be installed to enable the Canadarm 2 robotic arm to move along a "railway track" on the ISS truss, which was installed on the previous Shuttle flight. The track will allow astronauts to continue building and maintaining the ISS. The two-man team will also replace a faulty joint on the robotic arm.

The Italian Leonardo logistics module will make its third cargo-carrying visit to the ISS as part of the mission.

The fifth ISS expedition crew will replace the fourth crew, which will return to Earth on 11 June.

The Elektron oxygen generator at the space station is working again following a week-long failure this month which forced the crew to use solid fuel oxygen candles to supply oxygen. The ISS has also overcome a thermal control system failure which placed the station in automatic "survival mode" for 3h on 20 May.

Meanwhile, Russia may be forced to train an extra Russian flight engineer to fly in the third seat of the next Soyuz TM spacecraft mission to the ISS in October because a third potential space tourist who was due to make the flight has not materialised in time for training.

NASA has confirmed the closer integration of the Space Shuttle and ISS programmes with the appointment of Michael Kostelnik as deputy associate administrator for the joint programmes, a new management position within the Office of Human Space Flight. The possibility of a terrorist attack on the Space Shuttle Columbia is worrying NASA. Columbia is set for launch on 19 July on the STS 107 independent FreeStar science mission, carrying Israeli crewmember Ilan Ramon.

Source: Flight International